Faded walls of Montessori Charter School are getting a new life, thanks to The Studios of Key West’s Christine Heller. The artist in residence has created murals and installation pieces all across the country and is putting her brush on the school in Key West to put bring new energy to the building, accenting its learning environment.

“I often do not know what I am going to paint until I see the architecture … a mural is different than a painting. It puts the viewer in the same dimension with no boundaries,” said Heller, while prepping the wall with white paint.

Heller transformer dull walls into living creations, with work that features characters and figures in motion. Her style is unfettered and each piece is different from the last, some testing her. The latest piece she did was in Denver, Colorado, where she was commissioned to paint a mural on the side of a bar called MGM Lounge as part of an anti-graffiti campaign in the city. She was challenged when the bar owner asked her to make the mural look like a three-dimensional scene.

“I did some studying and learned the trompe-l’œil style of painting which uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion in which the depicted objects exist in three dimensions,” she said. “I may incorporate the style in the mural I am painting here in Key West.”

She spoke of incorporating the painting technique by illustrating children playing on the monkey bars. When describing how to paint in that method, using measurements and vanishing points, she noted art has a bit of math involved. Along with precision, spontaneity is important in her works and she often does not know what she is painting until moments before she applies the paint.

“The children at the school have been guiding me and helping me decide by watching them play and listening to their critiques. They are honest with their opinions.”

She also said there are unconscious forces at work in her art. After having the same character pop up in numerous installation pieces, she realized who she was actually painting.

“Somebody pointed out the character and I realized it was my brother that passed away,” said Heller. “Painting is therapeutic.”


Creative expression through art is a form of meditation she explained. She believes frustrated youth can vent through art and it should be brought to prisons and psychiatric facilities.

Look for her finished mural in an up and coming issue in the Key West Weekly. After finishing the project in Key West she will be working on an installation piece in a gallery back in Denver.

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